VH1’s Hip Hop Honors did things a bit differently than in years past for their sixth annual show, which went down last night (September 23) in Brooklyn. Rather than paying homage to some of hip hop’s greatest acts, as has been done in years past, the show recognized the long and influential history of one of music’s most important labels, Def Jam.

Many current and former artists on the label’s roster, as well as others simply wishing to show love, were on hand for the show which was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The night kicked off with Eminem and Black Thought channeling LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells.” Next, two of the greatest groups of all time were honored, as Public Enemy performed “Rebel Without a Pause” with help from a few friends, and Wale, KRS-One, and Travis McCoy rocked to Beastie Boys hit “No Sleep till Brooklyn.”

Neither LL nor the Beastie Boys were in the house to witness the tributes, but each was shown in previously recorded video segments that recalled Def Jam related stories and aired in between performances. Founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, former executive Lyor Cohen, and Kevin Liles—all of whom were in attendance—as well as many others including LA Reid, Bill Adler and Slick Rick, also shared memories in clips.

The night was filled with Def Jam hits and reunions, from Ja Rule and Ashanti collaborating on “Down 4 U” and “Always on Time,” to Onyx’s “Slam,” and Method Man and Mary J. Blige starting “You’re All I Need,” before hugging and mysteriously walking off stage before Mary did her verse. Rick Ross performed his hit “Hustlin’,” while DMX did the same with “Party Up,” and Warren G and Trey Songz teamed up for a memorable rendition of “Regulate.”

After Ludacris and Scarface came out together and got the crowd hype to “Guess Who’s Back” and “Southern Hospitality,” respectively, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Roots brought the evening home with a Def Jam medley. Assisted by Kid Rock, EPMD, Fabolous, Foxy Brown, Ghostface,  Chrisette Michelle and Wale, the night came to a close with versions of “I’ll Be,” “Back Like That,” and “Touch the Sky,” among others.

The tribute will air for all to see at 9 p.m. on October 13. -Adam Fleishcer

Photos courtesy of Jesse Gissen. Click on image to enlarge